In the late 1970’s, the founding members of Nueva Vida got together as a “kicks band”. Meeting at the Musicians Union hall to play music they enjoyed and to try out original compositions.
Nueva Vida Felix Almestica (vocals/percussion), Phil Bennett (drums), Arex Ikehara (bass), Allen Leong (piano), Alex Murzyn (sax) and Robert Shinoda (guitar), would meet once or twice a week and began building a repertoire of jazz fusion and R&B. However, their first steady engagement was at the Coral Reef Showroom as the back up band for entertainer John Rowles. This allowed them more playing and rehearsal time together, and they continued to build their songlist.
The band’s first performance on their own was at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand for an afternoon jazz concert.
Nueva Vida’s first club engagements were at Waikiki’s “Sugarmill Lounge”, Kojack’s, and the lounge at Canterbury Place.
A memorable early concert performance was at Andrew’s Amphitheater with Kalapana and Music Magic.
Eventually playing all major venues and resorts in Hawaii, early nightclub engagements included: The Canoe House, Nick’s Fishmarket, Trapper’s and Scruples – and later: The Esprit at the Sheraton Waikiki, The Black Orchid, The Row Bar, The Pier Bar at Aloha Tower Marketplace, Gordon Biersch, Koele Lodge, Grand Wailea, Maunalani Bay Resort, The Las Vegas Hilton and many more…
Over the decades, many musicians and singers have been a part of Nueva Vida including: David Choy-sax, Star Williams-vocals Carla Young-vocals, Noel Okimoto-drums, Dean Taba-bass, Rachel Gonzales-vocals, Mike Lewis-trumpet, DeShannon Higa-trumpet, Brien Matson-trombone, Merri McGarry-vocals, Aron Nelson-piano, Dayton Arima-bass, Sina Foley-vocals and many more…